A Philanthropic First for Chemical and Biological Engineering

Philanthropy can elevate a university and offer life-changing opportunities for students, faculty, and departments alike. Endowed professorships, where an initial gift offers funds to support a position in perpetuity, are especially helpful with recruiting and retaining top-notch talent while maintaining an optimal student-to-professor ratio. With a keen understanding of that kind of impact, the UW Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) has a strong tradition of supporting faculty through endowed positions. However, a newly endowed department chair is a historic first.

The R. Byron Bird Endowed Chair was named in honor of Bob Bird, one of the most influential chemical engineers in the history of the field. For his colleagues in the department, he was much more — a mentor, a friend, and an endless source of inspiration. The efforts to raise funds for this venture had a head start thanks to the generosity of Dorothy O’Brien ’70 and her husband Richard Antoine ’69, John Kuetemeyer ’61, Bill ’85 and Karen Monfre ’86, as well as Todd Pulvino ’84 and Katie Grogan Pulvino ’84.

Over the next few years, CBE department chair Eric Shusta ‘94 plans to use the support to keep the department in a position of excellence. The endowed chair will assist CBE in assembling the critically important start-up packages for newly recruited professors. Funds will also go toward supporting new undergraduate initiatives and graduate-student research efforts. Looking further into the future, the Bird chair could also help supplement the department’s computational resources or support textbook writing. Taken together, Shusta will have reliable funding to maintain CBE as one of the best departments in the nation.

“Our goal is to supply the world with top-flight chemical engineers.” says Shusta. “The R. Byron Bird Chair Fund will allow us to pursue our vision as we expand and diversify our faculty, support graduate student development, and offer unique learning opportunities to our undergraduates.”